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This Week in Black Television: the 2013 Fall Television Season Preview – Andre Braugher, Nicole Beharie + MORE

This Week in Black Television: the 2013 Fall Television Season Preview - Andre Braugher, Nicole Beharie + MORE

After a summer with a mixed bag of television with a few great but
mostly mediocre shows mixed with tired reality shows I and many of you are
aching for a return to the new Fall network television season.  Though, aching is what we may be left with
after previewing some of these new shows. 

Most of the previews and pilots that are now available online or on
Hulu are a crude example of what the show may become or even survive as, if at
all.  There are only nine returning new shows
from last year, yet a show like ABC’s The
co-starring Toks Olagundoye was universally panned but survived
the ratings gauntlet.  Meanwhile, Fox’s Ben and Kate was loved by most critics,
but it did not make it to the end of the season (though the BBF on the show,
Echo Kellum, an actor with good comic timing is returning on NBC’s Sean Saves The World – a show that chances are will not last) .   The result is that there no
accurate way to determine what will work and what will not. 

Before giving my breakdown of which five new shows with Black talent
(even as recurring guests) have the most promise, since I was on a sojourn this
summer from S&A here is my breakdown of the Black summer TV season, which
mostly includes cable shows.

Hands down the ‘Best New Show’ of
the summer, and arguably of the year, is ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. The Netlfix
released  prison drama about a spoiled
30-something city girl who goes to jail for 15 months after being convicted of
a transporting drug money for her ex-girlfriend Alex, who is also locked up in
jail with her.  Orange has an array of mostly unknown Black and Latino female
talent characters including transgender actor LaVerne Cox as Sophia, sad clown
Danielle Brooks as the systemized (foster care, jail, etc) Taystee, the fiesty
Samira Wiley as her buddy (and secret crush) Poussey, Lolita Foster as prison
guard Officer Maxwell, Dascha Polanco as the Dayanara, the young Puerto Rican
inmate who not only is in jail alongside her mother but also becomes pregnant
with a prison guard’s baby, and Vicky Jeudy as Janae, the always angry former
track star.  While the most surprising
performance has come from theatre actress Uzo Aduba as Suzanne aka ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren,  the standout on the show is
co-star Michelle Hurst, one of the program’s strongest actors (alongside Kate
Mulgrew who plays the manipulative Red) with one of the most tender plotlines
on the show, as the no-nonsense  Haitian
inmate Miss Claudette . Stay tuned for more about her in a future column. 

Second place for Best New Show goes to GRACELAND.  The Daniel Sunjata starring drama about a
house of federal agents (FBI, DEA and Customs) has more twists and turns than
your normal cop procedural.  Sunjata as
Agent Paul Briggs is riddled with secrets and should be totally untrustworthy,
yet he is able to win over his fellow agents as well as the unscrupulous people
he is investigating.  Although looked
over earlier in the season, co-star Brandon Jay McLaren as the stoic Customs
agent Dale Jakes finally received attention in a story arc highlighting his
past as a failed husband and father, followed by the final one he is a longtime
ally of Briggs.  He is truly underrated as
a actor.  But the ‘Best Casting’ of the
summer shows went to guest star Gbenga Akinnagbe as the ruthless drug lord
Bello.  Akinnagbe was downright scary in
this role, and Graceland allotted him
a lot of room to flex his range into a forbidding, even if sometimes cartoony,

Unfortunately the show that had
even better initial casting has been an utter disappointment. Lennie James,
hands down one of the best international actors on television and on the silver
screen, is misused as Det. Joe Geddes on the AMC Network’s LOW WINTER SUN.  Continuously lying and easily suspicious,
James seems unclear how to play the character and is constantly
overacting.  Constantly.  Watching the show is a waste of time and you
would be better off watching him in reruns of Jericho (2006-08) or the BBC miniseries Line of Duty, but not on this. 
Just as badly executed is the ABC Family show THE FOSTERS starring
Sherri Saum (Sunset Beach, In Treatment) and Teri Polo (Meet The Parents) as
two mothers raising a mix of biological kids, adopted kids, and foster
children.  I like that the show, as
promised, helps broaden the definition of family but the storylines are as
tired as the tough-girl-from-the-bad-part-of-town that the family takes in
during the pilot episode.  It is also
pretty sad that while The Fosters (that is the name of the family as well, just
not the show) have these house full of children that not one of them is Black
or African-American like Saum.  I guess
no one in their town wants to adopt Black children.

Now that the summer is wrapped up, let us move onto the Fall TV season,
which can also be called ‘Black Cop’!

Premiering tonight is one of the shows I initially thought looked dumb,
but as I saw more previews I think it may work. 

SLEEPY HOLLOW stars S&A fave Nicole Beharie as Sheriff
Abbie Mills, who finds Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), a man who claims to have just
awoken after being frozen in time for 250 years.  When the town begins getting ravaged by a
Headless Horseman that Crane was enlisted to track down by General George
Washington, Beharie and her boss Captain Irving (Orlando Jones) enlist Crane’s
help to stop him.  Further complicating
matters, it seems that the Headless Horseman is one of the Biblical Four
Horseman of the Apocalypse…so expect three other bad-azz monsters to show
up.  In the previews Beharie seems as
confident as ever in her role, and it is refreshing to see a Black woman as one
of the tough female cops that seems to be pervasive in every TV show on the air
today (I know that was a good compliment mixed with a bad one, but as
gender-diverse as they are trying to make some shows it now ends up feeling
like a formula. Leave it to Hollywood to make something that should feel right
into something that now feels forced).    

Also of interest is Blair Underwood in IRONSIDE, a remake of the
1960-70’s classic show of the same name that starred Raymond Burr in his
biggest post-Perry Mason television
show.   Underwood plays Sgt. Robert
Ironside, shot in the line of duty and now bound to a wheelchair, but still a
tough cop now leading his select group of detectives aided by a keen
perspective to see justice triumph.  And
the ladies still love him despite his handicap since, naturally, he is Blair
Underwood.  Although the show does not
premiere until October 2nd at 10pm and can hopefully do well in its
Wednesday night timeslot previously occupied by Chicago Fire, the pilot episode
is currently available on Hulu.  I did
watch it, and the show is decent, but it does not really stand out yet from
other procedurals on the air the way Elementary
did last season.  But with his second NBC
show in three years (the previous being the failed The Event) hopefully it can
last and compete against ABC’s Nashville,
which actually has an entire different audience base. 

Premiering tomorrow night on Fox
.  Starring
newly-retired Saturday Night Live cast member Andy Samberg as a goofy detective
Jake Peralta, who despite being a jokester is actually a good detective.  As TV shared in a recent interview
with Executives Producer/co-creator Michael Schur,”The
thing that we knew from the very beginning is that he was going to solve a
crime in the cold open…That was a key component in making this a real place
that wasn’t a parody…(For reference, Samberg joked: “My [character is] like
McNulty from The Wire, but instead of drinking
problems and philandering, he does stupid gags in the office.”)”  Terry
also co-stars as one of the 99th Precinct detectives and
he has already proven he can do comedy with his movies and starring as dad
Julius on Everybody Hates Chris for
four years. 

Even more significant (no
offense Mr. Crews) is that Andre
stars as the new precinct captain, and the positives that most
reviewers highlight is his comedic timing alongside Samberg – a duo I would
never have predicted. Braugher last played a cop on a regular television show
in Homicide: Life on the Street, the Tom Fontana produced drama that made
Braugher a star and earned him his first Emmy Award back in the 1990’s.  I have never kept a secret that Andre
Braugher is enthusiastically my favorite actor and Homicide my favorite cop show ever (sorry fans of The Wire).  It was disappointing when his show Last Resort did not attract enough
viewers to last a full season (a horrible timeslot was the main reason), as
when his Men of a Certain Age, which
highlighted his comedic chops, left airways the year before. That said, I feel
good about Brooklyn Nine-Nine being a
success.  You can catch it tomorrow and
every Tuesday at 8:30pm, though good luck watching its lead in DADS, which
looks really bad.  It will also face
stiff competition from the ABC show Marvel’s

A spinoff of CW
Network hit The Vampire Diaries, THE ORIGINALS is about the Original
family of vampires how sired the entire race. 
If sexy vampires who can walk around during the daylight are your kind
of thing, though I do not know if these ones glisten, then this is the show for
you.  Hunky actor Charles Michael Davis, most recently seen as Kwan Kirkland on The Game and as Dr. Jason Myers on Grey’s Anatomy, co-stars as Marcel, the
vampire ruler of New Orleans who was sired by moody vampire daddy Klaus (Joseph
Morgan), who has come back to the N.O. to live – and from all appearances
reclaim.   I have not seen a full episode
and so am not sure how good it will be, but its chances of lasting bode well as
it will air directly after The Vampire
on Thursday nights.  Catch
the premiere on Thursday October 3rd at 9pm on the CW Network.

The last show does not
premiere until November, but as a reviewer I am still feeling the loss of good
J.J. Abrams network TV science fiction since the end of Fringe last season. So I am eagerly anticipating
ALMOST HUMAN. Starring Michael Ealy and Karl Urban, the show takes place on Earth in 2048
where both crime and technology have run amok, so human cops are now paired
with android partners. Urban, now best known as Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy from the new Star Trek movies, is the human detective
John Kennex who after waking up from a 17-month coma where he lost one of his
legs and his human partner in a shootout because a police android deemed them
statistically unnecessary to save is naturally hesitant to be paired with a now
mandatory android partner upon his return to duty.  After destroying his new partner, Kennex is
paired with an older model android, the DRN, or rather Dorian (played by Ealy),
who unlike the newer models has ‘bugs’ – which means it actually can develop
feelings and actually has free will.

The last of his kind, he is
essentially a maverick like Kennex making them ideal partners. This the second
time Ealy has played a cop in the last year, most recently with the failed USA
Network show Common LawAlmost
looks markedly better than that show and Ealy appears both forthright
and sympathetic as Dorian.  Watch the
preview for Almost Human below. 



Also check out Wendell Pierce in the new THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW (September 26th
at 9 and 9:30pm on NBC) Isiah
Whitlock Jr. in LUCKY 7 (premieres
September 24th at 10pm on ABC), and Nonso Anozie on Dracula (Friday October 25th at 10pm on NBC).

Join me next time as I predict the Emmy winners and report in about the
new TV season on the networks and cable.  

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